By now you should be able to tell from my descriptions of the Préfecture that this place is worthy of a special place in Dante's inferno.
Nasty bureaucrats, screaming babies, impatient everyone -boredom and frustration reign supreme. Suffice it to say that such conditions don't bring out the best in people. Line fights regularly break out, everyone is generally on edge. Without fail someone decides to change their cellphone ringtone by testing all possible rings for everyone to hear. It really is unbearable.
On March 1st, when Monsieur J and I decided to take a break from the madness by going to a bookstore, he (being new to this) was worried that our number would be called and we would miss our turn. I suggested that he take another ticket, which would give us at least 20 minutes.
Well, after the bookstore outing there were still 38 people ahead of us. So much for that second ticket. Monsieur J went to run some other errands, and I found a seat and did some reading.
I couldn't help but notice the woman sitting next to me and her adorable little boy, who I guessed to be about 4. He wasn't whining, was spinning in circles and playing with a scrap of paper he'd found on the floor. Sometimes he would smile at me and I would smile right back.
I also couldn't help but notice the ticket she clutched in her hand, 50 numbers worse than mine. Ouch. Twelve tickets processed per hour with 88 people in front of you? This was not looking good. And while Junior was keeping it together for the moment, surely he couldn't do this all day.
And that's when it hit me. We had a second ticket, and it would improve her wait by about 4 hours. Now the only question, was how? I didn't want this to result in a line fight. I've seen them before and trust me, you don't want to involve yourself, much less provoke one.
I got up to stretch my legs and stood by the ticket machine. The little boy came up and gave me a shy smile and with that I slipped him the ticket and asked, "tu peux donner ça à ta maman"?
He toddled over and handed it to her, she looked at me questioningly as she unfolded it, and then her eyes looked as if they might bug out of her head. We couldn't say anything to each other without causing a riot, but the looks of gratitude and understanding we exchanged said it all.
1 week ago